SANDF should’ve just kept its contempt for us ‘private’
A gunfight between three soldiers and one policemen wasn’t even the most startling part
In the small hours of Sunday morning a gunbattle broke out on Durban’s Bluff. Three shooters were armed with assault rifles. But before anyone demands that the police or even the army be sent in, they should know: the parties exchanging fire in a major tourist destination were three SANDF soldiers and one police officer.
It was a startling story, even by the standards of a week in which the ANC officially promised to plunder pension plans. Off-duty officers and troops blasting away at each other outside a birthday party on Foreshore Drive is the stuff of dystopian nightmare.
But the firefight itself wasn’t the most startling part.
No, what really confirmed that corners of this land are fiefdoms ruled by mad kings was the comment by the SANDF spokesbrigadier Mafi Mgobozi.
We’re modern people. We’ve grown up in a world of spin. By the time we’re teens we’re fluent in the language of official deflection and denial. We even welcome it sometimes. It can be reassuring when a spokesperson stands up and offers some solid clichés and platitudes. It means that the system is working, even if the system is a terrible one. It means that papers will be stamped, stapled and stacked. It means that anarchy is postponed by another day.
If Mgobozi had said the SANDF was horrified by the events of Sunday morning, and that the public was entitled to a thorough investigation, I might not have believed him, but I would have been reassured that causes still had effects, however mild.
I would even have accepted a standard “No comment”, which at least implies steely military investigators keeping meddling journalists out of a crime scene as they pick up spent cartridges and try to map trajectories.
Mgobozi could have said any of that, but instead, he said something else.
He said the incident, involving three employees of the state, shooting at another employee of the state, using weapons issued by the state, was “private”.
I suppose it’s not surprising. Most arms of the state believe that we, the citizenry, are merely the battery hens that squeeze out their salary at the end of every month.
Still, the sweeping contempt for the public and transparency is pretty special, even by current standards.
Given Mgobozi’s response, we’re clearly on our own: we can only pray that we aren’t accidentally at the next “private” affair where SANDF troops get wasted or succumb to road rage or simply have a bad day and start blasting at people, and police return fire.
But we can suggest, with respect, that if the likes of Mgobozi genuinely believe that state-sponsored shootouts are private, perhaps they should no longer be employed in an industry where people take automatic weapons to work.